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Chinatown Boat House Debuts Sunday with Symphony, Choir Music

By Casey Cora | June 5, 2013 6:53am
 A Chicago firm designed the new boat house at Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown.
Ping Tom Park Boat House
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CHINATOWN — Sunday’s big reveal of the new boat house at Ping Tom Park will be accompanied by major fanfare, including symphony and choir performances, dragon dances and a drum circle.

The new facility at the park, 300 W. 19th St., is one of four facilities announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in September 2011.

It was designed by local architecture firm Johnson and Lee. Chicago Park District officials say part of the 2,485-square-foot facility will be used for kayak and canoe storage, and the other half will be used for restrooms and office and vending space.

An outside plaza features a canopy with a stone walkway leading to a floating dock offering access to the kayak and canoe launch.

“The building addresses the river … there’s a brick structure that has vending, then it has the red storage area for kayaks and canoes made out of a pattern from Ping Tom Park’s bridges and railings and such, and a canopy with three circular lights, which sort of acts like front porch to the facility,” architect Christopher Lee said.

Johnson and Lee will also design another boat house at River Park in Albany Park. Architect Jeanne Gang is charged with designing other two: one at Clark Park in Avondale and another near Canal Origins Park in Bridgeport.

“It’s the beginning of a great program. I’m just glad being a South Sider that the newest boat house is built on the south leg of the Chicago River,” Lee said.

The unveiling of the structure coincides with the “Shall We Gather at the River” event, a free family-friendly festival.

Sunday’s festivities kick off at 2 p.m. with free activities hosted by the Chicago Park District including fishing, kite-making, and guided canoe rides from Friends of the Chicago River.

At 3 p.m., it’s time for tunes. Here’s a look at the schedule of performances:

• Blues music from Corky Siegel and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater

• Civic Orchestra of Chicago Brass

• Chicago Children’s Choir

• Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Section

• Performance by Chicago Children’s Choir of Verdi’s "Va pensiero" conducted by Riccardo Muti

• Mucca Pazza marching rock band

• Drum circle

Sunday's festivities are the culmination of the CSO’s Rivers Festival, a series of discussions and performances paying homage to the “vital highways of commerce and culture.”

To highlight a river’s power of motion, the orchestra will be boarding a vessel at Michigan Avenue, playing as it cruises south toward Chinatown.